NBA: Sixers Trade Markelle Fultz, Just 18 Months After Drafting Him With Top Overall Pick

Markelle Fultz on the court.
Mitchell Leff / Getty Images

Back in the summer of 2017, the Philadelphia 76ers made a dramatic trade with the Boston Celtics to move up from the 3rd pick in the NBA Draft to the No. 1 spot. This was done in order to draft guard Markelle Fultz out of the University of Washington.

Throughout his time in Philadelphia, Fultz has mysteriously adjusted his shot, suffered injuries, and adopted shifting explanations of what exactly was wrong. Fultz missed most his rookie season, returned last fall as a second-year player, and was once again sidelined when his lawyer announced that a doctor had determined the player had developed thoracic outlet syndrome, and would sit out indefinitely.

Now, the 20-year-old Fultz’s time with the Sixers is over, after just 33 games played. The guard was traded to the Orlando Magic Thursday, shortly before the NBA’s trade deadline. Philadelphia will receive forward Jonathon Simmons, a first-round pick, and a second-round pick in the trade, ESPN reported. The first-round pick has top-20 protections — according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, via Twitter, this is the 2020 Oklahoma City pick that has been traded multiple times over the years, once by Philadelphia previously.

It was Philadephia 76ers general manager Elton Brand’s fourth trade of the week, and his second of the day. The deals left Philadelphia with a new “big four” of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, and new acquisition Tobias Harris. Their new bench players include Jonathon Simmons, James Ennis, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott — all of whom were acquired in this week’s deals. The Sixers are expected to be active in the buyout market as well. The team traded their own 2020 first-round pick to the Clippers in the Harris deal.

With Orlando, Fultz joins a young core that includes Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and the now-injured Mo Bamba. The team, with the NBA’s 7th-worst record, is not expected to reach contention any time soon.

It’s not clear when Fultz will first play for Orlando, but his lawyer told ESPN in December that his rehab was going well, and that he would return to the court this season.

Fultz is not the fastest top overall pick to be dropped by his team. In addition to various players who have been traded on draft night, the Cleveland Cavaliers actually traded the No. 1 overall picks from the two previous drafts — Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins — to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the same trade in August of 2014. This took place just over a year after Cleveland drafted Bennett, and a month after they picked Wiggins.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski took to Twitter after the deal to comment that Orlando’s management “consider the Fultz acquisition as a low-risk, high-reward proposition,” and that they view Fultz as a long-term project.